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The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1950

1950, as I’ve talked about, is a year I do not like. I mean, it’s fine in and of itself, but, in context — don’t like it at all. All About Eve, which is a tremendous film, wins Best Picture. This is a decision I’m not totally against. I’d just have gone with Sunset Boulevard instead. Still, that decision is fine. As is George Sanders winning Best Supporting Actor for the film. Joseph Mankiewicz winning Best Director for the film, though, is really what I have the problem with. I won’t go into detail (I did that here), but, Carol Reed really should have won for The Third Man.

Best Actress this year was Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday, which, is historically regarded as a poor decision. Having seen the performance, at first I liked the decision, but, after the fact, I do kind of feel it was a bit weak. I mean, she was good, but, Anne Baxter and especially Gloria Swanson felt like they were better choices. And then, Best Supporting Actress this year was Josephine Hull for Harvey, which is good.

So really, my problem with this year has to do with a probable weak Best Actress decision and what I consider the biggest Best Director snub in the history of the category. Other than that, we just have some choices I’d have went the other way on, and this category, which is just weak as all hell. So I’m not very high on this year as a whole. It’s very sad.

BEST ACTOR – 1950

And the nominees were…

Louis Calhern, The Magnificent Yankee

José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac

William Holden, Sunset Boulevard

James Stewart, Harvey

Spencer Tracy, Father of the Bride

Calhern — The Magnificent Yankee is a biopic of Oliver Wendell Holmes. If you don’t know who that is then you’re probably not going to get very much out of this movie. He was a Supreme Court justice appointed by Teddy Roosevelt. He did a lot of shit. This film is basically about him as he — honestly, not much happens. He just kind is himself, and it’s very much a warm type of biopic. The kind that just celebrates the man. It’s nice and all, but there’s really nothing of substance here.

It’s the kind of role that you have to get Oscar-nominated for. Louis Calhern looks just like Holmes, and just like Raymond Massey as Abe Lincoln, it’s the kind of role he was born to play. And he was gonna get nominated for the Oscar no matter what. It’s just — who’s gonna vote for him? Does anyone think he should have won this? I don’t. I think he’s #5 and the nomination is the reward.

The film itself is also okay, but nothing special. In terms of political figure biopics, this isn’t one of the more memorable ones, though I’m sure there are people who love this film. More power to them. I think it’s just okay and am leaving it at that.

Ferrer — Cyrano de Bergerac feels like a classic story. But maybe that’s because I’ve seen two version of the film. Cyrano is the dude with the long nose — which I assume is a dick metaphor — who is insanely proud, and goes around having sword fights with people and wooing women. But the thing is, there’s one woman he wants, but he can’t bring himself to get her, and even helps another man woo her.

The opening of the film is very famous. A play is going on, and Cyrano interrupts it, mocking the actors. Then someone in the audience, annoyed that the play was stopped, talks back to him. Which he was waiting for, because then he could go and have a duel with the man. And he goes around, writing poetry while dueling with the guy, and kills him as he says the last line of the poem. Very famous scene.

Then the whole film is him being in love with his cousin Roxane, but knows she’ll never love him because of his nose. And he finds out Roxanne loves another man, but he’s too shy to say anything to her. So Cyrano woos her by composing poetry for him, so, really she falls in love with Cyrano’s words, but the other man’s body. But then the dude dies and Roxane never finds out about him. She enters a convent, and Cyrano continues to visit her, and then is killed by the evil nobleman, but not before Roxane finds out about him.

You should know the story. It’s been remade a bunch of times and is a very famous play.

The film itself is pretty good, and José Ferrer is clearly having a good time. But I don’t know if I’d vote for this as Best Actor. It just feels too — oh, I’m gonna catch such shit for this — on the nose.

It really does, though. All amazingly incredible and appropriate puns aside. It’s like someone winning for Hamlet. Oh — bad example. But it’s like that. Put it this way. If next year, Ian McKellen played Macbeth in a film, and won an Oscar for it, how would you feel? Not for the actor, for the performance. I’m sure we’d all be cool with Sir Ian winning an Oscar, but, how would you feel if Macbeth won Best Actor? And not some modern, original retelling. A straight, faithful adaptation. Like a Kenneth Branagh adaptation. It would just feel too easy, wouldn’t it? That’s all I’m saying. That’s the only reason I don’t want to vote for him. It’s like — “I thought we moved past this by now.”

Holden — Now here’s a performance! I mean, I never really considered Bill Holden much of an actor. But he did his thing. He was likable. That’s all I need, really. He was amazing in Network too. I also don’t even think he was that fantastic in this, but at least this, I can rally around, you know?

Sunset Boulevard is a film that’s about ah ack screenwriter, on the run from debt collectors, who happens upon the mansion of a fading silent film star. And she’s delusional and thinks she’s gonna make a comeback, and he ends up working for her. And eventually he becomes a kept man, and she gets crazier and crazier, and then he tries to leave, she kills him (not a spoiler alert, the film opens with him face down in the pool), and there’s that brilliant final scene with Mr. DeMille and the close up.

Brilliant movie. Holden is great in it, but, I don’t think it was necessarily an award-winning performance. But I bet we’d all be okay if it were, wouldn’t we? It’s not like this is a category that has a clear cut winner. It’s really between three different people. There’s the classical performance, the solid performance in the great movie, and the awesomely great performance by the actor that everybody loves. You can make a case for all of them. So we’ll see how it fares for Holden when we get to the bottom.

Stewart — Jimmy! I love this man. I’ll watch him in anything. Him, John Wayne — actors like that, it doesn’t matter what they do, because they’re just great in everything.

Harvey is a film about a guy who is friends with a six foot tall rabbit that only he can see. And everyone thinks he’s crazy, but he’s actually a really nice and charming fellow, aside from the fact that he talks with a rabbit nobody can see. And the film is about his family trying to commit him to a mental institution, and the hilarity that ensues. It’s a classic screwball comedy, and Jimmy Stewart is fucking perfect in the movie. The whole thing is really just perfect. You need to see this movie.

I love Jimmy Stewart’s performance. For me, this is #1 by far. The only question is if I’m gonna vote for it. Which, in this category, is a legitimate possibility. It’s really between him and Bill Holden. So, we’ll see. But I think it’s probably gonna be him. I fucking love this movie.

Tracy — And, Spencer Tracy. I’ll tell you something — I loved this movie. I thought it was perfectly made. I like it a lot better than I like the Steve Martin version. And, despite all the shit I talk about Spencer Tracy (which is only because he won back-to-back Oscars for performances that, for me, just don’t rate at all), he is a fine actor and fun to watch.

The film is about his daughter getting married. His daughter is played by Elizabeth Taylor. And the whole movie is him preparing for and dealing with the wedding. And a lot of it is a series of, “wedding’s on, wedding’s off, wedding’s on again,” that sort of stuff, and then it’s just him dealing with all the chaos and such. It’s ar eally great

My Thoughts: Wow, I just do not like this category at all. Who the hell do you vote for? Calhern was never gonna win. I probably wouldn’t have nominated him, but, whatever. He’s #5. Then, Tracy, while enjoyable, was never winning for this movie. Not in a million years. He won twice, let’s leave it at that. So now we have Ferrer, who was fine as Cyrano, but, I never would have voted for it. But they did.

Really, for me, this comes down between William Holden and Jimmy Stewart. And while Holden was good, this was really Gloria Swanson’s movie. I don’t think he should have won, though I wouldn’t have been opposed to it. Him winning here would have made it okay for them to vote for either Montgomery Clift or Burt Lancaster in 1953, which personally I’d have went with Clift, since he never won one, but, if they’d gone with Lancaster, maybe lots of other things change (maybe Jack Lemmon wins in 1960, and then 1973 changes … it’s a whole ripple effect). That’s a lot of confusing things. Let’s just take Jimmy Stewart instead.

My Vote: Stewart

Should Have Won: Stewart, Holden. Maybe Ferrer.

Is the result acceptable?: I guess. Otherwise, based solely on what happened outside of this year, Stewart has two for certain, and maybe Holden gets two. I guess it’s fine. It’s not really disrupting anything. It’s just kind of there.

Performances I suggest you see: Harvey. Must-see film. Impossible not to enjoy. Also, Father of the Bride. Wonderful film. Very enjoyable, most people will enjoy it. Guaranteed. Sunset Boulevard. Must see film. You need to see it if you like film. Cyrano — if you want to. Not must-see by any means, but it is a famous play. And this version’s a lot less overdone than the Depardieu version.

Rankings:

5) Calhern

4) Ferrer

3) Tracy

2) Holden

1) Stewart

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